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National Affairs Policy

Table of Contents

2021 NA NC 1 Support for the Gaeltacht REGIONS

Proposed by: USI Leas-Uachtarán don Ghaeilge

This motion would require a 2/3rds majority to pass

Aithníonn an chomhairle:

An luach a bhaineann leis na ceantair Ghaeltachta agus a thábhachtaí is atá siad do thodhchaí na Gaeilge, agus do stair agus cultúr an oileáin seo.

Anuas ar sin, aithníonn an chomhairle:

Go bhfuil géarchéim ag tarlúint anois sna ceantair Ghaeltachta ó thaobh cúrsaí teanga de agus gmbíonn fadhbanna ollmhóra ag daoine óga fanacht sa Ghaeltacht mar gheall nach bhfuil deiseanna fostaíochta ann dóibh nuair a chríochnaíonn siad sa Choláiste.

Creideann an chomhairle:

Go bhfuil sé ríthabhachtach na Gaeltachtaí a chaomhnú agus gur ceart don Rialtas maoiniú sásúil a dhéanamh ar na ceantair seo ionas go mbeidh siad fós anseo i gceann deich nó fiche bliana.

Mar sin, sainordaíonn an chomhairle:

Go dtacóidh AMLÉ, trí obair an Leas-Uachtarán don Ghaeilge, le feachtas a bhaineann le caomhnú na Gaeltachta agus go gcuideoidh an LU Gaeilge le heagraíochtaí eile, stocaireacht a dhéanamh ar an Rialtas dul i ngleic leis an ngéarchéim sa Ghaeltacht.

Anuas air sin, sanordaíonn an chomhairle:

Go n-eagróidh an Leas-Uachtarán don Ghaeilge grúpaí fócais ar a laghad faoi dhó in aghaidh an tseamastair, le mic léinn ó na ceantair Ghaeltachta ar fad le plé a dhéanamh ar na fadhbanna is mó do dhaoine óga sa Ghaeltacht agus obair AMLÉ ar chaomhnú na Gaeltachta a stiúradh.

 

Council notes:

The value of Gaeltacht areas and their importance to the future of the Irish language, as well their importance in the history and culture of the Island.

Council also notes:

That there is a language crisis happening in the Gaeltacht and that there are huge difficulties in keeping young people in Gaeltacht areas due to a lack of employment opportunities for them when they finish college.

Council believes:

That it is vital to preserve Gaeltacht areas and that the Government should provide adequate funding to these areas so that they are still in existence in ten- or twenty-years’ time.

Therefore, council mandates:

USI, through the work of the Leas-Uachtarán don Ghaeilge, to support campaigns to preserve the Gaeltacht and to assist other Irish language organisations in lobbying the Government to tackle the ongoing crisis in the Gaeltacht.

Council also mandates:

The Leas-Uachtarán don Ghaeilge to organise focus groups for students from all Gaeltacht areas, at least twice a semester, to discuss issues facing young people in the Gaeltacht and to shape USI’s work on supporting the Gaeltacht.

 

2021 NA NC 2  Support for Dying with Dignity

Proposed By TU Dublin Students’ Union

Congress notes:

The Dying with Dignity Bill, is a bill in favour of introducing Assisted Dying in Ireland, which is a part of End of Life Care, often decisions made by those diagnosed with terminal illness or long term health implications that impact a person’s quality of life.

Congress further notes:

The current bill proposed is currently going through legislation at the time of this motion being written up. The bill aims to legislate for the safe and monitored access to End of Life Care which includes the Right to Die. The current bill includes the provisional necessity for an independent medical practitioner to assess the case and safeguard against abuse, coercion or gaslighting.

Congress recognizes:

The historic court cases taken by those who have sought a constitutional right to die or furthered this discussion, such as the abhorrent handling of the Cervical Check Cancer Scandal, or those who have sought to overturn legislation such as Marie Fleming, Gail O’Rorke and countless others.

Congress believes:

That bodily autonomy is a basic human right, and bodily autonomy derives from the absolute sovereign authority to make decisions that is best for one’s self and that End of Life care is included in Bodily Autonomy and autonomy over one’s health, wellness and future.

Therefore, congress mandates:

The Vice-President for Equality and Citizenship in conjunction with the Executive Team to lobby in favour of the Right to Die and to actively support the Dying with Dignity Bill.

Congress further mandates:

The Vice-President for Welfare in conjunction with the Executive Team to work with lobbying groups who have an in-depth knowledge on End of Life Care that encompasses empathy, compassion and understanding.

 

2021 NA NC 3  De-Platforming and Rejecting Fascism

Proposed by TU Dublin Students’ Union

 

Congress notes:

Fascism is a form of authoritarian ideology that focusing on power that uses forcible suppression of opposing views and opinions. It is a regressive and violent ideology that has seen an increase in reporting over the past years and now has now manifested into a full platform in 2020.

Congress further notes:

Fascism actively harms minority groups, progressive movements, and grassroots community equity campaigns by any means available, using the guise of political stances to protect itself from de-platforming and rejection from societal based values.

Congress recognizes:

That students come from all walks of life, opinions, and beliefs. Political beliefs and alignments vary in all students and it is important to recognize and support all students in their access, progression, and completion of their education and/or progression to life-long learning.

Congress believes:

That as a representative body we must ensure the protection of those who are most vulnerable in our society. Fascism actively aims to harm that core belief. We must ensure that access, progression and completion of education and its further progression into life-long learning must be safe from violence, oppression or hinderance, particularly from those with harmful, deceitful, or aggressive intent.

Congress further believes

That as a collective Union we should seek to include as many diverse opinions as possible, that does not actively harm, disrupt or de-platform the vulnerable, marginalized or oppressed in our society.

Therefore, congress mandates:

The President in conjunction with the Executive Team actively rejects and de-platforms forms of fascism and to further re-invest resources into protecting the most vulnerable and/or marginalized students in our society.

Congress further mandates:

The Vice-President for Campaigns in conjunction with the Executive Team and Presidents’ Working Group to engage in de-platforming actions such as counter-protests where safe, and to work with Organizations, Member Organizations and the relevant Executive Team officers to ensure training for officers in de-escalation, de-platforming and rejection of fascism is rolled out to all officers during key-training sessions.

 

 

2021 NA NC 4 Support for Gay Mens’ Health Service (GMHS)

Proposed by TU Dublin Students’ Union

Congress notes

GMHS is Ireland’s only dedicated statutory sexual health and wellbeing service for gay and bisexual men, men who have sex with men and the trans* community. The GMHS remains closed due to COVID-19 restrictions along with the PrEP clinic on the GMHS site. Since its establishment 28 years ago, the clinic has provided a range of essential health services including:

  • Providing a full sexual health service
  • A PrEP/PEP service that facilitates access to the national free PrEP/PEP programme and manages the ongoing monitoring of those using PrEP;
  • A Hepatitis A, B and HPV vaccination programme;
  • Counselling

Congress regrets
The GMHS was closed in March 2020 and staff were redeployed to COVID-19 test centers with the GMHS remaining closed for over 330 days now. The HSE piloted a programme for at home STI testing for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, syphilis and HIV. This pilot programme was launched only in Cork, Kerry and Dublin and after a day of opening the programme it was temporarily halted after thousands of orders were placed for the kits.

Congress also notes

The reopening of the GMHS clinic is vital, almost 12,000 gay and bisexual men and trans* people availed of testing, treatment, vaccination and prevention services at the clinic last year. Alongside the PrEP programme at the GMHS was one of the busiest services of its kind in the country, with about 1,000 people accessing medication through it last year.

Congress recognises
The important work being undertaken by LGBTQ+ organisations in calling for the reopening of the GMHS clinic and supports the opening letter written by several LGBTQ+ organisations calling for the reopening of the GMHS expressing concerns about the impact on the “sexual health and wellbeing of many in our community”.

Congress mandates

The USI Executive Team to lobby for the reopening of the GMHS clinic and further sexual healthcare facilities that are currently restricted and closed due to COVID-19 as an urgent priority. While also supporting LGBTQ+ groups in their work to reopen the GMHS clinic including groups such as ACT UP Dublin and many more.

Congress further mandates

The USI Executive Team to lobby the Department of Health to allocate resourcing to increasing access of these types of services provision beyond Dublin’s GMHS.

 

 

2021 NA NC 5 USI to support Irish Nightclubs during COVID19 crisis

Proposed by: IT Carlow SU

Congress notes that:

Irish nightlife is a struggling industry as it is. Now, due to covid19, a lot of the nightlife industry must adhere to government guidelines and remain closed until a point where it is safe to open to the public. This puts even more pressure on Irish nightclubs to stay in business.

Congress further notes that:

Pubs and restaurants have national representation through the LVA (Licensing Vintners Association) however nightclubs are not included within their remit of representation. ‘Give Us The Night’ is an independent volunteer group of professionals who campaign for positive changes to nightlife in Ireland but are not a formally recognised representative organisation.

Congress believes that:

Nightclubs play a huge role, not only the student experience whilst in college, but for many employment opportunities to students. Nightclubs should be recognised as a vital part of the student experience and thus so recognised as such by the USI.

Congress mandates:

The Vice President for Campaigns to actively and publicly work with members from ‘Give Us The Night’ whilst recognising the importance of nightclubs to Irish students. The Vice President for campaigns must offer support from the USI to nightclubs during the Covid19 crisis within reason as per government guidelines ensuring safety to the public is priority.

Congress further mandates:

The Vice President for Campaigns to deliver any relevant updates from ‘Give Us The Night’ and, if so deemed necessary, reach out to MO’s if help and/or support is required by ‘Give Us The Night’ at a campus level.

 

2021 NA 1       Supporting Students in Direct Provision

Proposed by NCI Students’ Union

This motion would require a 2/3rds majority to pass

 

Congress Recognizes That students in direct provision are at a greater disadvantage when it comes to educational, financial, and mental health supports. The current asylum-seeking process in Ireland needs to be dramatically modified and better resource the administration of the asylum process in Ireland in order to allow for a quicker asylum reception process. The last official statistics published by the RIA was in November 2018. The average length of stay in Direct Provision is 24 months, with some residents having spent up to 10 or 12 years living in these conditions.

Congress Notes That a report in 2020 by Doras outlined that asylum seekers are five times more likely to develop mental health & psychiatric issues. International Protection applicants experience a disproportionately high rate of mental health difficulties. They are up to fifteen times more likely to be diagnosed with depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder1 and five times more likely to be diagnosed with a psychiatric illness.

Congress further notes USI does not directly represent second-level students as they are not in third-level education but must recognize the inequality faced by these students in direct provision.

Congress Therefore Mandates The Vice President for Welfare to work with the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union and relevant mental health organizations to provide mental health support and resources to students in direct provision.

Congress further mandates The Vice President for Equality and Citizenship to provide information resources to students looking to continue to third-level education. These resources should include institutes with sanctuary programs, mental health support services, and grants available to them.

 

2021 NA 2       Seanad Reform

Proposed By USI President

This motion would require a 2/3rds majority to pass.

Congress recognises The establishment of the Electoral Commission which has been a key priority for the Union of Students in Ireland for a number of years.

Congress believes There is a great opportunity to see true Seanad Reform as a result of the Commission.

Congress notes Recent efforts by Senators to enact the referendum passed over 40 years ago which would extend voting rights to all graduates of third-level institutions. While this is a welcomed step, it still facilitates an elitist system of representation.

Congress Mandates The USI President to lobby for Seanad Reform to ensure a fully democratically elected Seanad where all citizens have the right to vote in Seanad Elections.

Congress further mandates The USI President to lobby for a proposed amendment to the constitution to reform the Seanad including, but not limited to, the removal of 11 seats being nominated by the Taoiseach and the stipulation that all voting should be by secret postal ballot.

2021 NA 3       Right to disconnect.

Proposed by USI VICE PRESIDENT Campaigns

This motion would require a 2/3rds majority to pass.

Congress notes: The issue of “always on” and “always available” amongst workers particularly during COVID-19 working arrangements and the impact this has on people’s personal lives.

Congress recognizes: The work done as part of the “Right to disconnect” campaign

Congress recognizes: The work done by Ireland’s Workplace Relations Commission on a consultation on a new code of practice which will give employees the right to disconnect outside normal working hours.

Congress therefore mandates: The USI Executive team to campaign for and support the calls for legislation around the Right to disconnect for workers.

2021 NA 4       Post Covid-19 Economic Recovery

Proposed By USI VP Campaigns

This motion would require a 2/3rds majority to pass.

Congress Notes The severe impact that COVID-19 restrictions has had on the Irish economy and the large sum of money borrowed by the Irish state in 2020 and 2021 to help cushion it’s respective impact.

Congress Further Notes The history of Irish Government’s responses to economic downturns being one including cuts to public expenditure and increases in taxes on income, as opposed to wealth; as well as the impact these decisions have had on Irish society as a large as being significantly negative.

Congress recognizes: The need for fiscal re-adjustment when normal life resumes, and the economy restarts on a long term basis.

Congress further recognizes: The need for the attempts to raise public monies should be done equitably and should be focused on progressive forms of taxation.

Congress mandates: The USI President and The Vice President for Campaigns to campaign and lobby for a just economic recovery and against economic policies routed in austerity.

2021 NA 5       Sanctions, Fees and Fines

Proposed By NUI Galway Students’ Union

Congress notes: That institutions put sanctions, fines & fees on students for such things as not paying fees on time, for having to repeat exams and breaking their code of conduct.

Congress Further Notes: That there are no best practice guidelines in place to deal with the issues such as late fee payment of students. Some institutions charge extra fees and others attempt to encourage students to pay their fees by locking out students of online resources including moodle, blackboard and emails.

Congress notes with concern: That this is resulting in students becoming very distressed, as the sanctions put in place are having a direct negative impact on each of the students’ academics.

Congress further notes with concern: Students who rely heavily on family support and part-time work cannot afford these kinds of fines and fees that are imposed on them.

Congress mandates USI President to lobby DFHERIS and HEC to ensure greater fairness in these practices and by creating a model that institutions use when it comes to dealing with late-paying of fees, repeat exam costs and breaking rules etc.

Congress further mandates: USI President seeks that no monetary fees and fines are used for these issues.

 

EM 20 – 4: COVID_19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment

Proposed by MSU

Congress notes:

COVID-19 has imposed strict restrictions, resulting in a large number of students being both temporarily and permanently laid off of their part-time employment. This mass lay- off has resulted in the government creating, and most of these students receiving, the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment, which is currently valued at €350/week.

Congress further notes:

The vast majority of Irish students would have taken on many more hours in employment during the summertime to pay rent, living expenses and to save for the coming academic year. The government’s possible plans to either lower or means test this payment means students will be means tested and judged on their suitability for the payment by the average of their working hours from before the pandemic hit, not their increased hours planned for the summertime.

Congress mandates:

The USI President to immediately lobby the Irish government to take into account the hours students will forego this summer while reforming the criteria for receiving the COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment.

 

 

EM 20 – 7: Emergency motion for COVID funding gaps

Proposed by NUIGSU

Congress understands

Due to Covid-19, third level institutions and FEs will have lost a considerable amount of money due to the crisis and there will be a drop in funding from external sources.

Congress notes

Students services such as counselling, health units, disability services, academic supports as examples along with Students’ Unions’ funding could be under threat from funding cuts to cover the costs that Covid-19 brought and will bring.

Congress recognises

USI’s opposition to any cuts to student services or Students’ Unions.

Congress mandates

The VP Campaigns and President to investigate the impact of funding cuts on third level institutions and FEs due to Covid-19.

Congress further mandates

The VP Campaigns and President to lobby government officials to increase funding and cover any funding gaps due to the virus.

 

 

EM 20 – 8: Emergency Motion on Financial Barriers to Education

Proposed by NUIGSU

Congress Notes

That the majority of students in Higher/Further Education across the State must work, either part-time or seasonally, to fund, in full or in part, their Education and the associated living costs.

Congress Further Notes

That a significant proportion of these students rely heavily on the Summer Months, when they can work full-time and not have to worry about being absent from lectures, laboratory classes etc.

Congress Believes

That the financial burden, both directly and indirectly associated with accessing education is one of the greatest barriers to education, both nationally and globally.

Congress Recognises

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, many students will find themselves under unexpected financial pressure, because of loss of employment/earnings, as most students are employed in the service/retail sectors which have been heavily hit.

Congress Further Recognises

That many students will have been deemed eligible for the COVID Unemployment Payment, but many students will equally not have been deemed eligible due to a reliance on seasonal Summer work, or indeed due to taking time off to manage the heavy workload placed on students in February and March of the Academic Calendar, for example.

Congress Also Recognises

 

That many students will struggle to return to education in the autumn, due to a greatly reduced amount of money saved, or may be considering deferring the year or leaving education, as a result of same.

Congress Mandates

The President, along with the Executive Team, to lobby the Government to introduce an Emergency Financial Support for students, to prevent a potential Exodus from Education, or the unnecessary falling into personal debt of same.

Congress Further Mandates

The Relevant Officers, working alongside the Individual MOs, to lobby individual Higher/Further Educational Institutes to take a more Lenient View of students who find themselves in Financial Difficulties, particularly in light of this crisis which we have faced, and continue to face, irrespective of wealth, class or other distinction. The Coronavirus does not discriminate, so why should Education.

 

 

20 NA (NC) 1 Decriminalisation of Sex Work

Property of the USI Executive Team

Congress notes

Sex work refers to escorting, lap dancing, stripping, pole dancing, pornography, webcamming, adult modelling, phone sex, and selling sex (on and off the street).

Currently prostitution (the exchange of sexual services for money) is not illegal, but associated activities (soliciting in a public place, kerb crawling, operating a brothel) are.

Congress notes with concern

With the rise in living costs, the potential increase in tuition fees, the inadequacy of the maintenance grant, and various other personal reasons it is highly likely that some students do and will do sex work alongside their studies.

Congress does not believe

That anyone should be forced into sex work as a means of supporting themselves and that the current system fails those it affects directly: sex workers.

Congress applauds

In August 2015, Amnesty International voted to adopt policy to protect the human rights of sex workers. The resolution recommended that they develop a policy that supports the full decriminalisation of all aspects of consensual sex work. The policy will also call on states to ensure that sex workers enjoy full and equal legal protection from exploitation, trafficking and violence.

 

Congress believes

That there should be far more support for sex workers, both within the industry and for those looking to get out of it. Sex workers should be fully supported when seeking to leave the industry, especially through the opportunities to re-skill or upskill through education.

Congress believes

Decriminalisation would ensure that sex workers feel able to report unsafe clients or violence at work without the worry of criminal repercussions, work together for safety, and that those who wish to leave the sex industry are not left with criminal records as a result of their job.

Congress mandates:

Officer Board to support and campaign for the full decriminalisation of sex work. This is to be done through the support of sex worker organisations who work to improve the lives of sex workers across Ireland.

 

 

20 NA (NC) 4Motion on Insurance Reform

Property of the USI Executive Team

Congress believes

Students are massively struggling with the cost of education, from the extortionate fees to the huge costs of accommodation. Transport is another cost we need to reduce for students.

Students are commuting by car more because of the high costs of education or lack of availability of public transport but the commutes themselves are almost as expensive as renting in some cases.

Congress notes

That after Central Bank abolished releasing the PMIS report in 2015, that there is very little data available on specific stats in relation to insurance – including around young people/students and motor/travel insurance, making it very difficult to create a case to lobby on.

Congress believes

According to anecdotal data, that students face a number of barriers when it comes to insurance including cost, getting insured on cars aged 10 years and older.

Congress believes

That transparency is important in terms of real reform of this market and in order to lobby on this issue.

 

Congress acknowledges

That there is a broad alliance of groups work on insurance reform called the Insurance Reform Alliance who are highlighting the negative impact of persistently high premiums and calling for real action to tackle the issue. Their aim is to leverage reforms that will quickly reduce liability and motor insurance premiums to affordable levels and keep them that way.

Congress mandates:

The USI Executive to join the Insurance Reform Alliance.

Congress also mandates

The USI Executive to work on reducing the costs of insurance to students, including lobbying relevant bodies and building partnerships with companies to offer discounts.

 

 

20 NA (NC) 5Motion on Free Public Transport for Students

Property of the USI Executive Team

Congress believes

Students are struggling with the cost of education, from the extortionate fees to the huge costs of accommodation. Transport is another cost we need to reduce for students.

Students are commuting more because of the high costs but the commutes themselves are almost as expensive as renting in some cases. This is a much more viable option for those who have the option to get a bus as it is better for the environment and does not require parking spaces in the vicinity of the college, which is not offered in some institutions.

Congress acknowledges

By 2000, there were 27 free public transport systems in the world. That increased to 60 in 2010, 99 in 2017 and 114 today – the majority in Europe, according to Wojciech Keblowski, an expert on free public transport at the Free University Brussels.

Congress notes

Ireland already provides free public transport for citizens aged 66 and older, and for certain categories of welfare recipients.

Congress mandates:

The USI Executive to lobby for the further reduction and in turn, the abolition of public transport costs for students.

 

 

20 NA (NC) 6 Motorcycle Safety

Property of the USI Executive Team

 

Congress notes

That the Road Safety Authority do run campaigns in relation to vehicles of all types albeit more influence is placed on some more than others The Road Safety campaigns currently run by USI and MO’s both locally and nationally and the increasing number of students choosing motorcycles as a mode of transport.

Congress notes with concern

The rise in motorcycle related collisions and accidents on Irish roads. Based on figures from the RSA (Road Safety Authority) May 2019 the amount of motorcyclist involved in fatal collisions from 2005-2015 was 212 in comparison to cyclists during the same period was 47.

Congress notes

The RSA has information available on motorcyclists but unfortunately they don’t provide enough information for other road users on how to look out for motorcyclists. The need for MO’s to highlight the importance of motorcycle safety is of paramount importance.

Congress therefore mandates

USI to assist MO’s where possible to roll out motorcycle safety and awareness campaigns geared towards students.

Congress also mandates

The VP Welfare to look into collaborating with organisations such as the Road Safety Authority in promoting Road Safety (irrespective of vehicle – that all vehicles are included in their road safety, inclusive of cars, motorcycles, bicycles etc.) inclusive of all with a particular emphasis on students.

 

 

20 NA (NC) 7 Internship campaign

Property of the USI Executive Team

Congress acknowledges

The work done by the Media Interns Alliance on highlighting the issues faced by interns working in media. The Media Interns Alliance is a grassroots alliance established in February 2019 comprised of media workers in Ireland, former interns, legal professionals and current interns campaigning for the abolition of unpaid or low paid internships. They believe that unpaid internships act as a barrier to students and graduates from working class, migrant, traveller and LGBTQ backgrounds on the basis that these people can not afford to work for free. Through the use of social media, the Media Interns Alliance have shared the stories of former and current interns in Ireland, unveiling the extent of the unethical and unlawful practise of unpaid or low paid internships. The Media Interns Alliance also offers workshops to students and recent graduates to explain their rights,

 

share stories and acts as a community for those who they feel have been taken advantage of by media organisations.

Congress believes

That the practice of internships are critically under regulated in Ireland. It is common practise in many European Countries to have protections in place for interns in the workplace. No such protections are afforded in Ireland.

Congress believes

That media companies in Ireland have been profiting off the backs of unpaid and low paid intern labour for many years, creating a revolving door style of precarious quasi employment for students and graduates.

Congress notes

That the current practise of expecting job ready graduates to work for free with little mentorship and fulfil the roles of full-time staff members creates a free labour market to the detriment of students and graduates in lieu of sorely needed entry level positions. This also exacerbates inequality, as these unpaid internships are only accessible to those who can afford them.

Congress acknowledges

that interns have no rights under current Irish law and therefore no legal protection from exploitation. The Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2011 which introduced the Job Bridge Scheme is the only time an intern is mentioned in Irish law. Under this legislation, the legal definition of an Intern is “not an employee” and therefore should not be adding value to a company. The Media Interns Alliance believe that they can prove that interns are in fact employees and adding value to numerous companies in many sectors and should therefore be entitled to at least the minimum wage and workplace legal protections.

Congress notes

That unpaid or low paid internships exclude working class people, migrant groups, members of the LGBTQI community and other marginalised groups who simply cannot afford to take work with no or little pay to further their career.

Congress notes

That many students and graduates rely on internships in order to gain work experience and build networks in their field with the plan to secure a job in the future.

Congress therefore mandates

The USI Vice President for Campaigns to engage with Media Interns Alliance, relevant trade unions and other groups of interns to develop a campaign together to improve the rights for interns.

 

 

20 NA (NC) 8    Rent Strikes

Property of the USI Executive Team

Congress notes

Following from the success of Rent Strikes in the UK and emerging Rent Strike groups in Ireland, rent strikes involve the withholding rent, typically from the college in college- owned student accommodation, in a form of protest of the cost of student accommodation with the objective that the college would reduce the rent.

Congress also notes

Collective action and rent strikes have proven extremely effective. Victories include a £1.2 million rent cut at UK based colleges UCL and a 35% backdated rent cut at Goldsmiths, UK.

NUS (the UK National Union of Students’) have been supportive of rent strikes in the UK.

Congress acknowledges

Focussing on college-owned student accommodation, brings the fight for affordable student accommodation to the campus, creating a college that is more affordable and accessible for future students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend college. Colleges should be working to remove barriers to attending college and the cost of accommodation is a huge barrier currently.

Congress mandates:

USI to support campaigns involving rent strikes in campus accommodation.

 

 

20 NA (NC) 8 Student Accommodation Position Paper

Congress approves:

Student Accommodation Position Paper You can find the paper here.

 

20 NA (NC) 9 Industrial Relations Act 1990

Property of the USI Executive Team

Congress highlights

 

The great work that the student movement and trade union movement do in tandem with

each others’ campaigns, create campaigns together and to support students as workers.

Congress notes

That past campaigns where the USI and trade unions have had their members have worked together have been inhibited by the restrictions of the Industrial Relations Act 1990, particularly around secondary picketing, aside from the additional impacts it has on students as workers and future workers.

Congress notes

The 1990 act was introduced to restrict and control trade unions. It is fundamentally flawed and is the worst dilution of workers rights in the history of the state. Since its introduction we have seen precarious employment, short term contracts, bogus self employment, the gig economy, privatisation, low pay and a general race to the bottom in workers rights which in turn has led to a decline in union membership. Decisions on industrial action should be left in the hands of workers and their unions without fear of repercussions.

Congress notes

The work done by the Trade Union Left Forum (TULF) in the campaign to work towards the repeal of the Industrial Relations Act 1990.

Congress mandates:

USI to engage with like minded unions and TULF to support them in the campaign to repeal the 1990 Industrial Relations Act and replace with legislation that allows secondary picketing but also gives union recognition, full collective bargaining rights and the right to union access.

 

 

20 NA 1 Climate Action Policy

Proposed by the Vice President for the Southern Region, NOTE: The Climate Action Strategy is available at http://congress.usi.ie/online-congress-2020/policydocs/ Congress adopts

The Climate Action Strategy

Congress therefore repeals

2018 UO 20

2018 UO 19

UO (NC) 19 – 1

 

UO 19 18

2018 NA 2

EM 19 (CZN)

5 CZN 19

2018 CZN 1

 

 

20 NA 3 Campaign for Electoral Reform

Proposed by the USI Vice President for the Dublin Region

Congress notes

That automatic voter registration does not exist in Ireland.

Congress further notes

The Written Submission to the Public Consultation on Modernising the Electoral Registration Process put forward by USI in 2019.

Congress recognises

A number of students and young people were not able to vote in the 2020 General Election due to the election being called for a date; a week ahead of the publication of that year’s electoral registration.

Congress understands

The benefit that automatic voter registration would provide to Ireland’s electoral system

and political engagement.

Congress mandates

The Vice President for Equality & Citizenship and Vice President for Campaigns to put a campaign together to push for electoral reform which includes but is not limited to; votes at 16, automatic voter registration, and the establishment of an electoral commission.”

 

 

EM 19 (NA) – 1: Support for Workers in Ballina Breweries – Coca- Cola

Proposed by USI VP for Campaigns

This requires two-thirds majority to pass

Congress Notes:

 

SIPTU represents the majority of core production workers in the Coca Cola Company plant in Ballina Beverages, County Mayo. Since October 2014, they have been seeking union recognition for the purposes of collective bargaining. They have two Labour Court recommendations that state that the company should recognise SIPTU for those employees in membership of the Union. The company has shut down discussion on the Labour Court recommendations.

Congress notes with concern:

The company’s human rights policy states ‘where employees are represented by a legally recognised union, we are committed to establishing a constructive dialogue with their freely chosen representatives. The company is committed to bargaining in good faith with such representatives.’ The company are clearly in breach of their own human rights policy by failing to engage in collective bargaining with SIPTU and its members.

Congress also notes:

Young people are the main target market for Coca Cola products and have great weight in this campaign.

Congress further notes:

The National Union of Students UK (NUS UK) wrote to Mr James Quincey, President and CEO of The Coca Cola Company, on the 12th March 2019, raising their concerns about the company’s violation of their own human rights policy in relation to workers rights. Mr Brent Wilson, The Coca Cola Company Global Head of Workplace Rights, wrote back to the NUS on the 15th March 2019 offering to meet with the NUS on their concerns.

Congress Mandates:

USI officerboard to write a letter of correspondence to Mr Quincey in support of the SIPTU members in Ballina and raise their concerns over this breach of the human rights of Coca Cola workers in Ballina Beverages.

Congress also mandates:

USI officerboard to support SIPTU in their #TasteZeroRights campaign.

 

 

EM 19 (NA) – 2: USI Strategy Paper on the British Exit from the European Union

Motion proposed by the VP for Academic Affairs

Congress notes

That the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union on 23 June 2016, but that voters in the North rejected Brexit in the referendum.

Congress further notes

Previous USI mandates opposing Brexit, to support the efforts of NUS-USI in fighting the negative consequences of Brexit, and the previously stated support of USI to the NUS-USI call for a ‘People’s Vote’.

Congress notes with deep concern

The political deadlock in the UK Parliament on the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement, which would prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland through the inclusion of the backstop, and the now looming prospect of a no deal Brexit.

Congress recognises

That USI must now seriously increase its lobby and campaigning activity on the implications of Brexit for students across the island, and work more proactively with NUS- USI to protect peace and stability on the island, the rights enshrined under the Good Friday Agreement, and the right of access of all to education.

Congress therefore adopts

The USI Strategy Paper on the British Exit from the European Union.

Congress also mandates

That this Strategy is reviewed and considered at each National Council, as required.

 

 

NA 19 – 1 Garda National Immigration Bureau Process for non-EU students.

Proposed By Postgraduate Working Group

Congress Recognises

The current process for GNIB registration for students coming from outside of the European Union is costly and repetitive.

Congress further recognises

That the high cost of renewing your application annually combined with the bureaucracy of the process is not fit for purpose.

Congress further recognises

That the travel restrictions which activate through the GNIB process are counter intuitive to a postgraduate working and academic life.

Congress mandates

The Vice President for Postgraduate Affairs to lobby the Department of Justice and Equality, and any party they deem appropriate, to reform the process and make it more accessible and equitable for students.

 

 

NA 19 – 2 Post March 29th: Brexit Support

Proposed By Ulster University Students’ Union (UUSU)

Congress Notes:

At time of writing, the United Kingdom is set to exit the European Union on March 29th.

If a deal is not struck, the EU would begin to trade with the UK under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

Policy previously passed by Congress in 2016 which mandated USI to ‘actively campaign to ensure that the rights and values of the student movement are not diminished or ignore’.

EU students studying in the UK and UK students studying in the Republic of Ireland have been guaranteed home fee status for 19/20, but no such guarantee has been made beyond.

Congress Believes:

No-Deal Brexit could have disastrous consequences for the lived experience of students across the island, and will lead to uncertainty around fees, research funding and cross- border mobility amongst many issues.

Any future detrimental change to fee status for ROI or EU students studying in the North or vice-versa would be entirely unacceptable.

Congress Mandates:

The Vice President for Academic Affairs to work with the Vice President for Equality & Citizenship to support MOs to work with their institution in supporting students in their colleges who have been affected by the outcomes of Brexit.

The USI President to consult with the NUS-USI and NUS-UK Presidents to lobby institutions and government against reclassification of fee status for UK and ROI/EU citizens studying in ROI/EU and the UK respectively.

 

 

NA 19 – 3 Integrated Education in Northern Ireland

Proposed by Ulster University Students’ Union

Congress Notes:

Education in Northern Ireland is divided and typically segregated along religious lines.

 

There are around 70’000 empty desks in the school’s system across the North.

Divided education systems create a lack of consistency in the quality and content in the education received, particularly in areas such as religious education and sex education.

Congress Recognises:

That divided education isolates communities and does not contribute to progress towards a shared future in Northern Ireland.

That educating all children together at a primary and secondary level is an essential part of the reconciliation process and of building a society that celebrates respect, understanding and friendships across traditional divides.

Divisions cannot be expected to be healed if children are taught separately and don’t meet

someone of a different belief or background to themselves until they reach university.

Congress Mandates:

That USI President should consult with NUS-USI for fully integrated education at primary and secondary level within Northern Ireland whilst respecting people’s right to choose where they send their children.

The USI Officer Board should work alongside stakeholders with similar interests and outlooks such as the Integrated Education Fund (IEF) to achieve this.

 

 

NA 19 – 4                     Expansion of student Leap Card

Jointly Proposed by GMITSU And NUI Galway SU

Congress Notes:

Most colleges have a large percentage of commuting students, especially since the price of renting accommodation has increased largely over the last couple of years. Public transport in most areas is acceptable but still needs more investment especially in rural areas.

Congress further notes:

The National Transport Authority (NTA) leap card has made the price of public transport cheaper within city boundaries but not from commuter towns and cities, meaning many students who commute everyday are forced to buy tourist tickets.

Congress recognises:

Cheaper and improved public transport would incentivise more students to use it and reduce congestion and the need for housing in most HEI towns/cities. More affordable public transport options also widens the radius of housing to students further out than just city boundaries.

 

Congress Mandates:

The USI President to negotiate with the NTA to improve and extend the limits of use for the Student Leap Card, making access to institutions cheaper and more accessible.

 

 

NA 19 – 5 Protection of Employee Tips Bill Campaign

Proposed by GMITSU

REQUIRES A TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY TO PASS

Congress Notes:

Currently in Ireland there is no legislation for ownership of tips for employees in the hospitality sector in which they work.

Congress Further Notes:

There is no legal obligation for employers to re-issue tips or to have a structure in place to ensure employees received their tips. This has allowed employers to place restrictions on the allocation of tips.

Congress Recognises:

That employers often capitalise on this fact to take tips that rightfully belong to the employee.

Congress Further Recognises:

The legislation will give transparency to where tips go, for the staff and customers who reward the tip!

Congress Mandates:

The USI President to lobby TD’s to ensure that, “the Protection of Employee Tips Bill” that’s passed through the Seanad gets through the Dáil to become Law and our students that work in that sector get what they’re owed.

 

 

NA 19 – 6 BusConnects – Dublin Area Bus Network Redesign

Proposed by Vice President For The Dublin Region

Congress notes

The recent BusConnects Dublin Area Bus Network Redesign Consultation Process.

Congress further notes

The impact that the redesign could have on students.

Congress mandates

 

The Vice President for the Dublin Region to inform MOs of the Dublin Area Bus Network Redesign when it is reviewed.

Congress further mandates

The Vice President for the Dublin Region to collect feedback from MOs on the Dublin Area Bus Network Redesign and collate it in to a report.

 

 

NA 19 – 7 Privatisation of Public Transport

Proposed by Vice President For The Dublin Region REQUIRES A TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY TO PASS

Congress notes with concern

The recent privatisation of several Dublin Bus routes; 17a (from Blanchardstown to Kilbarrack)

33a (from Balbriggan/Skerries to Swords/Dublin Airport or Dublin City Centre) 33b (from Portrane to Swords)

45a, 45b (from Dún Laoghaire to Kilmacanogue) 59 (from Killiney to Dún Laoghaire Station)

63, 63a (from Dún Laoghaire Station to Kilternan Village) 75, 75a (from Tallaght to Dún Laoghaire)

102 (from Dublin Airport to Sutton Station) 111 (from Dalkey to Brides Glen)

175 (from Citywest to UCD)

184 (from Bray to Newtownmountkennedy) 185 (from Bray to Enniskerry)

 

Congress further notes

That in October, the National Transport Authority (NTA) announced its intention to tender out 10% of Bus Éireann routes.

Congress worries

That the continued privatisation of public transport will increase costs and have a negative affect on students.

 

Congress mandates

The USI President to make representations and lobby against the privatisation of public transport.

 

 

NA 19 – 8 Minimum Graduate Wage for Students Graduates

Proposed By GMITSU

Congress Notes:

Students are exposed to precarious work, zero-hour contracts and low wages whilst supporting themselves in college and early years of their careers

Congress Regrets:

That the increase in the cost of living and a relatively stagnant minimum wage has grown the divide between what students earn, and what students need to earn to meet the cost of living.

Congress Recognises

That a living wage provides for someone to earn the minimum required to live.

Congress Mandates

The President of USI to initiate campaigns and lobbying efforts to increase the minimum wage of graduates.

 

 

NA 19 – 8 Right to Higher Education

Proposed by The USI President

REQUIRES A TWO-THIRDS MAJORITY TO PASS

Congress recognises

That there is no constitutionally recognised right to Higher Education in Ireland.

Congress welcomes

The ruling of the Irish High Court, who recognised that in order to be economically and socially prosperous, it was imperative that citizens have access to higher education.

Congress Believes that

Ireland, as a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural rights, should pursue improved access to Higher Education.

Congress mandates

 

The USI President to actively work to ensure that reference to that convention is throughout the work of the department and other agencies, and to explore ways and means to ensure

Congress Further mandates

The USI President to lobby for the Higher Education Authority Act to reflect in its wording that third level education is a public good that must be accessible.

 

 

NA 19 – 10                   Higher Education Funding Campaign

Proposed by the Vice President for Campaigns

Congress notes

The formation of a Coalition for Public Funded Education in recent years, which was driven by USI and includes SIPTU, IFUT, IMPACT, TUI and ISSU. This collaboration with like-minded organisations, who support our funding position and see Higher Education as a public good, strengthens the campaign.

Congress mandates

USI Officer Board to ensure the continuation of and engagement with the Coalition for Public Funded Education.

Congress notes

The previous research done by the NERI institute in 2013 on Higher Education Funding, led by the USI-SIPTU partnership called ‘We Need to Talk about Higher Education’, which was adopted by Congress in 2013.

Congress notes

The need for an updated single comprehensive and researched document on the public- funding model proposed through various USI policies. This will provide USI with credible, well-researched and solutions-based policy for which to advance the argument in favour of our ideological position on third-level funding.

Congress mandates

The USI President and Vice President for Campaigns to seek to update the previous research conducted by the NERI institute in line with the current situation in higher education and commission other areas of research that will also benefit the campaign where needed.

Congress mandates:

The USI President and Vice President for Campaigns to create a sustained national campaign on Higher Education Funding, backed by research and supported by the

 

Coalition, to include investment in Higher Education, supports and towards a model of fully publicly funded education.

USI Officer Board to campaign and lobby extensively for the future funding of the Irish Higher Education system.

Repeal:

14 AAQA 1           USI/NERI THIRD-LEVEL FUNDING POLICY

  • EM 4 THE NATIONAL CAMPAIGN- EDUCATION AS A PUBLIC GOOD

 

 

NA (NC) 19 – 1 Air BnB Regulation

Proposed by: Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union

National Council regrets:

As of the beginning of August 2018 there was a mere 1,400 houses available to rent in Dublin. At the same time there was in excess of 3,000 homes to let on AirBnB.

National Council notes:

The regulation of short-term letting through agents such as AirBnB in cities such as Amsterdam and Berlin tackled directly the congestion in the availability of housing.

National Council therefore calls upon:

The Government to introduce further regulation of this sector in line with that employed in Berlin in order to increase the availability of housing.

 

 

NA (NC) 19 – 2 Separate Church and State

Proposed by: Vice President for Equality and Citizenship

National Council notes:

That people in Ireland have different religious and spiritual beliefs or none and we live in a pluralistic society.

National Council notes with concern:

The religious nature of Bunreacht na hÉireann and how it can further impact the advancement of positive change in Ireland.

National Council believes:

That Bunreacht na hÉireann and our laws should be secular and that religious or spiritual faith and practices should have no influence on our legislative processes or laws and that no one religion should have supremacy over others.

 

National Council mandates:

USI Officer Board to support campaigns and lobby groups working towards a separation of church and state. This includes but is not limited to supporting the provision of objective relationships and sexuality education in schools and removing the offence of blasphemy from Bunreacht na hÉireann.

 

 

NA (NC) 19 – 3 Pay Equality for Newly Qualified Teachers

Proposed by: Leas-Uachtarán don Ghaeilge

Council Notes:

The financial difficulties faced by Newly Qualified Teachers due to the two tier pay system.

Council Further Notes:

Those who entered the profession from February 2012 have been placed on a severely- reduced starting salary which sees them generally earn over 21% less than those appointed prior to 2012.

Council Mandates:

USI Officer Board to support the campaign striving towards equal pay for equal work and to ensure that negotiations are inclusive of the student perspective.

 

 

NA (NC) 19 – 5 Supporting the ‘Use your brain, not your fists’

Campaign

Proposed by: IT Tralee Students’ Union

National Council acknowledges

The ‘Use your Brain, not your fists’ Campaign was run by An Garda Síochanna to highlight

the devastation of violent attacks by young people on each other.

National Council acknowledges

That students could imperil themselves and others through violent attacks; and that they may not be aware of the risks or long term effects of their actions.

National Council therefore mandates

That the VP Campaigns & VP Welfare should liaise with An Garda Síochanna in future in relation to this campaign, and to work towards inclusion of key messaging around violent behaviour in future campaigns relating to personal safety.

 

NA (NC) 19 – 6 Ownership of the National Maternity Hospital

Proposed by: Vice President for Equality and Citizenship

National Council recognises:

The long history of the Union of Students in Ireland in campaigning for accessible abortion services in Ireland, and the recent victory in repealing the 8th Amendment from Bunreacht na hÉireann.

National Council notes:

The continued opposition to abortion access by many religiously-based groups throughout Ireland.

National Council notes with concern:

That abortion access could be extremely limited if plans for the National Maternity Hospital to be governed by a Catholic organisation go ahead.

National Council mandates:

USI Officer Board to campaign for the National Maternity Hospital to be taken into public ownership, and that the new maternity hospital be governed by a new, secular charter.

National Council further mandates:

The Vice President for Equality and Citizenship to lobby the Minister for Health on this issue.

 

 

NA (NC) 19 – 7 ICCL Electoral Law Reform

Proposed by: USI President

National Council notes

A law which was originally intended to prohibit large or anonymous donations to political parties is now being applied to the campaigning work of civil society organisations, preventing them from carrying out their legitimate human rights and social justice work.

National Council notes that

Transparency regarding donations to charities and CSOs in general, and particularly during referendums or elections periods is imperative.

National Council notes with concern

That the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPOC) is now applying the law to civil society’s legitimate attempts to bring about change. This places Ireland in the same legal position as countries such as Hungary and Russia which prevent foreign funding of civil

 

society, although in our case these restrictions are the result of poor regulation rather than deliberate policy decisions.

National Council mandates

The USI President to actively support the joint campaign calling for electoral act reform, along with the ICCL, Amnesty, Frontline defenders, Uplift, Transparency International and The Wheel.

 

 

NA (NC) 19 – 8 Support the fight for marriage equality in Northern Ireland

Proposed by: Vice President for Equality and Citizenship

National Council notes:

Northern Ireland is the only region in the UK where same-sex marriage is still not legally recognised, despite huge support among the public in Northern Ireland. According to a 2016 Ipsos MORI poll, 70% of the public in Northern Ireland are in support of marriage equality.

National Council notes with concern:

That according to the Mental Health in Northern Ireland: Fundamental Facts research, reduced LGBT+ rights in Northern Ireland has led to a mental health crisis in the community, with 5% of LGBT+ individuals self-harming compared to 13% in rest of UK, 57% drinking to hazardous levels compared to 24% in England, and 25% attempting suicide

National Council believes:

That everyone should have equal access to civil marriage, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

National Council mandates:

The Vice President for Equality and Citizenship to support the Love Equality Coalition campaign for equal marriage in Northern Ireland.

National Council also mandates:

The Vice President for Equality and Citizenship and the USI President to publish a statement of support for the Love Equality campaign in pursuit of marriage equality in Northern Ireland from the Union of Students in Ireland and encourage other LGBTQ+ organisations to do the same.

National Council further mandates:

 

The Vice President for Equality and CItizenship to endeavour to include opportunities for students to learn about the political climate with regard to marriage equality in Northern Ireland at LGBTQ+ training events.

 

14 NA 2             ZERO HOUR CONTRACTS

Congress notes with concern:

The problems of Zero Hour Contracts, seeing them as exploitative, precarious and disproportionately altering the relationship between employers and employees, many of whom are students.

Congress regrets:

That this has additional problems in relation to families/ single parents, given the difficulties of combining Zero Hour Contracts and childcare.

Congress mandates:

USI to confirm its opposition to Zero Hour Contracts, and work with the trade union movements and sympathetic political parties to bring about the abolition of ZHC.

 

 

 

12 NA 1             CHILDRENS’ RIGHTS

Congress notes:

The absence of legislation in Ireland in relation to the protection of children.

Congress further notes:

The contents of the Cloyne, Ryan and Murphy Reports.

Congress recognises:

That we, as a society, fail to protect vulnerable children.

Congress therefore mandates:

USI Officerboard to actively support the proposed referendum on children’s’ rights, to work with Campaign for Children and other organisations in favour of the referendum, and to actively encourage and facilitate MOs to get involved in the campaign. This motion shall continue to be in force for the next three years or until such time as the referendum has passed.

 

12 NA 3    PRIVATE SCHOOLS

Congress recognises:

That we as a student movement we must strive for true equality of opportunity at all levels in the Irish education system. We also recognise that whether or not a child will make it to third-level education is very often determined by the quality of their secondary education.

Congress further recognises:

That many potential students have not made it to third-level because they come from areas of socio-economic disadvantage, and thus cannot afford private schooling, or because the public schools in their areas are not adequate.

Congress notes:

The growth of grind schools and private secondary schools in Ireland in the past two decades, and that this growth of the private school sector has led to a divided student body at second-level and beyond, and has also resulted in many good public schools struggling to fill places and stay open.

Congress further notes:

That students attending private schools have access to an education that is to a large extent publicly-funded, but which is only accessible to those who can pay the private fees which run into the thousands each year. This means that all taxpayers are being asked to subsidise an education system that is only accessible to those children lucky enough to be born into relatively well-off families, and that this private education puts them at a great advantage in attaining higher CAO points and thus places on third-level courses.

Congress mandates Officer Board:

To campaign for the removing of state funding for private primary and secondary schools, and for any monies saved in this process to be ring fenced and re-invested in the wider, publicly-funded and publicly-accessible education system including primary, secondary and third level education. This should be completed within the next year.

 

 

 

09 NA 4             Elections Campaign

Congress applauds:

The current USI policy on increasing the student vote.

Congress mandates:

The President to immediately begin lobbying all political parties with regard to student issues, specifically funding of third level education.

Congress further mandates:

Officer Board to prepare information regarding each party’s policies which relate to students so as to inform USI’s members.

Congress also mandates:

 

The President and Officer Board to immediately begin a campaign to improve student access to voting – through lobbying for weekend voting, on campus polling stations and re- instating the right to be registered at home and at college.